I’ve been meaning to write up a new post for so long, not because I feel the need to express myself on the topic of low-carb, LCHF, Paleo, or fitness anymore, but because I just went to update this site and saw that my last posts were mainly negative in terms of progress, and I didn’t want to give readers the impression that I had given up or that this wacky diet of mine doesn’t work : )
As you may have seen over the past year or so, there has been more and more research supporting lowered carbohydrate intake for health and weight loss. It seems that the message is finally out. When I started this “journey” five years ago, and particularly when I started writing this blog, I made a couple of mistakes. One of which was the tone I used in the writing. One reader wrote me to tell me to “quit mansplaining!” When I saw that I was quite ashamed and embarrassed, as I did not intend to come off as a know-it-all. But I did, so forgive my tone in many of the early posts. But, in my defense, think back just a few years ago and we were still faced with the following myths being considered conventional wisdom:
Butter is bad for you
Salt is bad for you
You have to drink 8+ glasses of water per day
Low carb diets or too much protein cause liver problems
Since that time, saturated fat has been the topic of hot debate as to whether it is healthy or not, with the research being pretty clear that it is health, or at least not unhealthy. The vegans/vegetarians are slowly losing their grip on the diet and fitness policies (yes, even fitness – they have successfully boondoggled most of America into thinking that slowly jogging around a track for X minutes a day is the ideal fitness routine….why? Because it requires no protein.). Anyways, you know where I stand on it.
Over these five years I spent the first two or three arguing with people who would, as I felt at the time, “have the gall” to question my diet when I clearly was losing weight and getting into the best health and shape of my life. Couldn’t they see/feel what I did? Hence my tone in those posts. After the first few years I stopped debating with people about diet completely. Not worth the time or frustration. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that debating diet and fitness with currently obese and/or unfit individuals is like debating the importance of going clean to a drug addict. They’ll argue you tooth and nail over it. With regards to diet and fitness, I’ve specifically found that overweight men over the age of 30 will insist they know what they’re talking about when it comes to diet and fitness. They will argue until they run out of breath (and they often do) that their approach is the best. Of course, they’re not actually following “their” approach but they apparently think about it. Nowadays, I simply avoid the subject. If I am really annoyed and don’t care for the person, then I’ll just look them up and down slowly and then reply, “How’s that diet working out for you?” Enough said.
My Current Status
Simply, I’m doing really well. I struggled for a long time with fitness – trying to dial in the right fitness program for me has been a constant and evolving struggle and will continue to be tweaked, but over the past year or so I’ve found what works and what doesn’t for me. More importantly, my weight is just about perfect. I am at 189lbs, which sounds a bit high to a lanky jogger type but I was blessed with a muscular, athletic build (large thighs, v-shaped upper body). Hypertrophy training (i.e., “bodybuilding”) is now my primary “workout” though I do sports as well, such as squash a couple of times per week, some basketball, and soon some soccer. I’m in the best shape of my life. And guess what? I eat a lot of carbs these days. My typical routine is to eat < 100g of carbs during the weekdays. Often less than that. One night per week, although I don’t plan on it, if I feel I need more carbs to fuel a more intensive workout, then I’ll indulge in something sweet or starchy. The weekends? I eat very low-carb during the day and pretty much whatever I want at night. Keep in mind that I don’t ever want bread or pasta, though I would give it a go if I desired it. But I enjoy beer and fried foods often on weekends. I’m able to do this now because I feel my body is working properly, and the weightlifting and squash really allow for this.
I’ll be turning 44 in a week. I started this way of eating back when I was 39. I somehow have been able to not only keep the ~80lbs off but continue to get in better shape. Not sure how I’ve accomplished it but I have. And I have learned a number of things through continual self-experimentation. Some quick thoughts:
Hypertrophy training is best for me. The “lift heavy” thing didn’t result in worthwhile change to me. What does “worthwhile” mean to me? Not adding more plates to the bar. It’s like when I talked about my now disdain for crossfit in an earlier post – I didn’t join a CrossFit box to increase my “Fran” time. I did it to lose weight and get in better shape. Neither happened as a result. So while I certainly do not regret doing CrossFit for 6 months, or my 2 years doing a heavy lifting (i.e., Starting Strength and/or StrongLifts) type routine, the bottom line is that after doing those protocols for long enough they did not result in worthwhile, positive change for me. Going to a 8-12 rep, higher-volume weight routine, coupled with some HIIT (in the form of squash primarily) has been the key for me.
I no longer buy into the bullshit that carbs are completely unnecessary. This is simply not the case for me. When I was obese and needed to lose weight, cutting out all carbs from non-vegetable sources was absolutely the best way to go. But once I lost the bulk of the excess weight and turned my attention to fitness goals, I unfortunately found out the hard way that our bodies were simply not meant to lift heavy things or run around at fast paces for extended periods of time without the extra fuel that carbohydrates provide. THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT LOW CARB IS BAD. What I am saying is that, for me, low carb is the ideal weight loss approach. It is not the ideal diet for an athlete. If you are overweight, then I suggest you ditch your athletic goals and go on a very low carb diet until you lose the excess weight, then scale up your carb intake to fuel your athletic goals. There I go mansplaining again : ( …. but really, that’s what’s worked for me. And I learned this stuff the hard way. Believe me, I spent a year trying to do heavy lifting on low carb. Didn’t work.
So that’s it for now and probably for a while. I just wanted to give a quick update on my status. I’m alive, well, and thriving. I wish you all the same.
Actually I quit yesterday, but wanted to wait a day to blog about it, as I wanted to give it a day to think about it before writing.
I’ve been doing CrossFit for a little over four months now. Subscribers to this blog have likely read my over-the-top descriptions of my first CrossFit workout and other tales of woe : )
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with CrossFit ever since the moment I started. Actually, even BEFORE I started. I’ll explain why a bit later. I stuck it out for these four months because there is so much I like about it that the parts I don’t appreciate so much were overshadowed. But there is one thing I couldn’t ignore any longer: I just did not feel as well these past four months as I did the months prior when doing an unstructured fitness program of my own. Was I in as good a shape back then? No, in terms of measurable performance. In terms of appearance, the difference was positive but not much. Put it this way – with a shirt on I didn’t look any different except a little ‘puffier’ in the chest. Regardless of the slight bump in upper-body muscle, as I always say to friends/family that ask my opinion about diet and exercise, the best evaluation for whether something truly works for you or not is this great litmus test: “How do you feel?” If your goals are to excel at CrossFit (and make no mistake about it – CrossFit is a sport first, with the fitness regimen being a side-effect), then that’s different from the goals of most people who start a fitness program. They don’t do it to compete. They don’t do it for fun. They do it to feel better and to look good naked. That’s it. Normal people don’t care how much they can clean & jerk.
Looking back, the past four months can best be summed up in this way:
CrossFit is awesome. At least the box I joined is. But injuries sustained from my own stupidity/ego/body have just ruined this experience for me. And some aspects of it are not aligned with my goals, which are just to feel great and look good. It’s just not fun for me.
I know what you’re thinking/about to leave a comment saying. I’ve heard/read it many times regarding CrossFit. It goes something like this:
“If you’re getting injured then you need to find a new box/coaches!!!” Yes, that is true in some cases, but not in mine. A couple of the coaches at the box I was a member of were pretty useless. They did nothing but hang out and yell a “Keep it up guys!” once in a while. They didn’t teach a thing. But most are really good. I learned pretty quickly who to avoid, so that wasn’t the problem. The problem is me. My ego, and my damned pinched nerve, and my goals just didn’t agree with CrossFit. I wasn’t there to be an athlete. I was there to get in shape and feel the best I can be. The former was hampered by constant nagging injuries, and the latter degraded the more/longer I did CrossFit.
I’ve had injuries or soreness since the day I started CrossFit. And when you start doing workouts of that level of intensity, and duration, it wreaks havoc on one’s diet. It’d be easy if I were shoving sugar/carbs down my throat for the majority of my calories. The answer would be to just add more to burn more. But I don’t eat that way, for obvious reasons.
Before I start bashing CrossFit, which is what the following will come off as even if not intended:
I QUIT BECAUSE I WAS CONSTANTLY BATTLING LITTLE NAGGING INJURIES. I would have stuck with it, even if it wasn’t ideal for me. Why stick with something you don’t love? Cus that’s me. I have been very down the last week or so, knowing that I was coming to this decision. I don’t like to quit anything and I’m still conflicted (obviously!) about this decision.
What I Liked About CrossFit
The Social Aspect
People often complain about the monthly cost for a CrossFit membership. I paid, with a 10% veteran’s discount, $135 per month. That was for 3 sessions per week. That is way high compared to the regular gyms. But when you walk into the regular gyms you don’t get free personal training. You don’t have any camaraderie or even friendly people saying hello to you. You don’t get nutrition advice, or an instant social network. Even though I’m in my 40’s, married, bald, and have the personality of a mosquito, as soon as I joined my local CrossFit box I was instantly inundated with happy hour invites, Facebook friend requests, and plain old ‘Hi, my name is XXXXXX!’ introductions whenever I’d see someone new at a WOD.
The social aspect is what makes CrossFit successful, long-term. For some people, like me, this is not all great. During the WOD I didn’t really like the constant “Go! Keep it up! One more Rep! You can do it!” Rah-rah-rah. I specifically stopped going to Team WODs because of it – nothing more annoying than an overzealous dude yelling in your ear to give it more when you’re already giving it all you’ve got. But that’s just me.
The Personal Training is Included
This is the part people don’t understand. I was so weak and inflexible when I first started that every single WOD was a personal training session. Over time, this became embarrassing to me, as sometimes I felt like I was depriving others from getting the help they might have needed. Not sure how to do a lift or want to refine your technique? Just ask the coach. Heck, I usually didn’t need to ask – they’d see how screwed up I was and would just come over and correct me. Not all of the coaches were pro-active in this way though. But most were, and a few were phenomenal, and once I figured out who those folks were I just always went to the sessions they coached.
I could easily, and just might, add this one to the negatives list. But there’s something to be said for the intensity. I don’t care who you are – if you’re in a warehouse full of people all pushing hard to get through the same WOD, you’re going to push harder because of the group dynamic. I will never understand how people could do CrossFit on their own using the CrossFit.com (otherwise known as the “main site”) prescribed WODs. I know I could never keep the intensity up doing it by myself.
What I Hated About CrossFit
I recently read this article and I think the guy absolutely nailed it in terms of the aspects of CrossFit that I didn’t like.
Before someone leaves a comment saying that it’s different at every box – really? No, it’s not. The social aspect is certainly different. The coaches are different. But let’s be honest – there are only so many prescribed movements/lifts. Wall balls at one box are the same at every other. Box jumps. Clean and Jerks. Deadlifts. Running. Etc. What is different from box to box is the people. The people at the box I was a member of are great (mostly). I’ll miss chatting with them. I doubt they’ll miss chatting with me, cus I mostly would just whine about how hard CrossFit was : )
CrossFit is Chronic Cardio
Even before I started CrossFit, one of the things that concerned me was that, no matter how you sliced it, it was chronic cardio. When you have your heart rate pumping to the max for close to an hour at a time*, it doesn’t matter if the formal WOD is just 10 minutes long. At my box, the warm-up was 10 minutes and very high intensity – much higher intensity than any ‘spinning’ or ‘pilates’ class during it’s highest level of intensity. And rarely was I ever able to finish a WOD within 10 minutes. Usually they were a minimum of 15 and often much longer. A number of them (especially the dreaded team-based WODs) were ~45 minutes. And that doesn’t count the warm-up. Since I only did it 3x per week (and often, due to injuries, only 2x per week), the ‘chronic’ effect was mitigated. How these guys do it every day or even the 3-on-1-off protocol that CrossFit recommends, is beyond me.
It’s Weightlifting But It’s Not
One regret I have is not trying the “Westside Barbell” sessions that my box offered. I don’t even know what that is, but I assume it is a more traditional weightlifting approach versus the metcons.
CrossFit teaches and prescribes lots of lifts, but mostly it was high-rep. The focus is on intensity. The problem with that is, in order for me to keep the intensity up, and not injure myself, I had to use very low weight. And you can’t build muscle if you aren’t lifting heavy. I realize heavy is a relative term, but I have no doubt that I would have built more lean muscle had I just done a traditional heavy weight to failure routine 2x per week instead of rounds of high-rep/low-weight AMRAPs. Think about that for a minute: if you have to rip up your muscles in order to initiate adaptation (i.e., build stronger muscle), you have to lift heavy. Every expert will tell you this, especially the ones who I trust like Mark Sisson to Robb Wolf to Mark Rippetoe (incidentally, the latter two are now no longer fans of CrossFit themselves).
The Dudes that Run CrossFit are Creepy
Okay. Does it really matter that Greg Glassman comes off as a creepy used car salesman? Not to mention the dude is fat and out of shape, which doesn’t exactly inspire me. Or that the guy that programs the CrossFit games seems like a douchebag? No, not really. But, I’m just throwing it out there. But you have to admit that the whole “Coach says” thing is borderline cultish. Don’t believe me, ask Robb Wolf. He’s obviously had first-hand experience with CrossFit HQ and got tired of it. .
The All Important Physical Results Aren’t Consistent
Aside from the all-important “How do you feel?” question I led this post off with, there are three other types of results to be concerned with when it comes to CrossFit or any fitness routine:
How do you look as a result of it?
How do you perform, outside of the actual activity, as a result of it?
How do you perform at the activity itself, as a result of it?
The only one that matters to me is the first one. Superficial I know. But honest. And real. I could care less how I perform at CrossFit itself. That is only of value in the box, as a social status thing. Who gives a shit? I joined CrossFit to ‘get (and therefore look) ripped’. I could care less how much I can deadlift. Or how many Muscle Ups I can do (no, I can’t do any and never will). Or what my Fran time is. They are just arbitrary numbers that are of value only within the box. So how I perform at CrossFit the sport (and it is a sport) is irrelevant to me. It is not irrelevant to many CrossFitters though. I saw countless fat guys who were devastated that they didn’t PR on a movement. Or didn’t finish with a better time/score. I honestly felt bad for these guys. Some were 40+ years old and obese. Why would they care what their Fran Time was or beat themselves up cus they weren’t a member of the “Muscle Up Club”? They should be concerned with their carb counts, and the spike in cortisol levels that they were causing by doing those long metcons, not their rep counts.
As for the ‘functional fitness’ aspect of it. It’s true – CrossFit does help you perform better at day to day stuff. And I can see how it can be super beneficial for military (for sure), police and firefighters, who have to be prepared for anything physical that their job throws at them. But, for me, a married 40-something white collar worker and Dad of two, it didn’t help me any more than a non-CrossFit fitness regimen would. And, in fact, due to the continual injuries, it was likely worse. I don’t need to be able to carry people on my back and run 400 meters, or flip a 2 ton tire. I have a AAA membership! : ) I leave those lofty accomplishments the real heroes. I just want to not embarrass my family when taking my shirt off at the beach.
Both of these guys are a fail, in my opinion, especially the guy on the right, unless his goal is to be doing WODs for the sake of WODs.
Being Tied to A Schedule
I was a member of one of the biggest boxes around, in terms of members. They had lots of sessions scheduled. Most CrossFit boxes are small and only offer an early morning and evening session or two. Problem is, it is a major time commitment to do a CrossFit session. For me, it was 2 hours, minimum. Say my session was 12pm. I’d have to leave at 11:30 to get there by 11:45, then warm-up on my own so I don’t get pummeled by the formal warm-up, then the session was always a minimum of one hour and often slightly longer, then tack on another 15 mins to cool down (trust me, if you give it your all, you don’t just wipe your brow with a towel and go), followed by a shower, etc. This business about “I get in and get out” is bullshit. The 10 minute workout is a fable. It COULD be true, but not if you include the warm-up, the instruction, and then the post-WOD stretching. Having to pre-schedule myself for a session is a pain in the ass. I have flexible work hours, so it wasn’t the times that were the issue, but the total time commitment. Being able to just go to a globo-gym or to the local park and knock out my workout quickly is a better fit for me.
The Stress, and Effect on Diet and Weight
Those of you who have read much of my blog, or keep up with the latest credible research on diet and fitness, should know that working out often causes you to eat more. In my case, I struggled to keep my weight consistent. I started CrossFit at a svelte 191lbs. Within 3 weeks I was up to 199lbs and shitting bricks that I would break 200lbs. Yes, it might have been mostly muscle (though 8lbs of muscle in 3 weeks is not possible). But it was me subconsciously eating more – I, in effect, “worked up an appetite” from the working out. Four months of CrossFit has resulted in a much more defined chest/shoulders, but a softer middle. I’m down to 193lbs as of today, only because I had to completely cut out sugar for a month. And, unlike before CrossFit where I could eat a fair amount of carbs via an occasional dessert/treat with my kids, once I started CrossFit I really had to struggle to keep my weight down. And don’t give me that bullshit about how the scale lies. A 5’10” man shouldn’t be weighing over 200lbs. Period. My waistline didn’t go down any further during CrossFit either (it’s still at 34″). It didn’t get worse, but didn’t get smaller. I attribute this to the stress (likely in the form of cortisol spikes due to the chronic cardio). The stress from the WODs themselves, to the stress that the nagging soreness/injuries as a result of the WODs.
In The End
CrossFit is great and it sucks all in one. I sincerely hope that I don’t sway anyone away from trying CrossFit – I urge EVERYONE to try it. Especially if your goals are aligned with it, but even if not. It IS fun to survive a hard WOD and then reflect on it. It’s kind of like boot camp. I am a veteran and look back at boot camp fondly. Do I want to be in it perpetually for the rest of my life, as a fitness endeavor? Hell no. But I’m glad I did it. I am really proud that, even though I didn’t like CrossFit all that much from the start, I stuck with it for four months and gave it a fair shot. I loved the idea/theory of CrossFit. I loved telling people how I was pushing myself to the limit and surviving, loved thinking about the goofy shit like tire flips and muscle ups and the like. But in the end, it just wasn’t for me.
First off, I apologize for not posting in a while. This blog now gets an average of 130 unique visitors per day, and based on some of the emails I’ve gotten recently asking me if I’m still alive, I wanted to get the word out about how things are going.
I’m Alive and Thriving! : )
I actually had a post outlined and half-written about a recent business trip to attend a conference. Mainly the post is about the types of food offered during the included breakfast/lunches and then dinner while on the road. I’ll get it posted soon. In the meantime, an update:
Today I broke a milestone that I was beginning to think I would never hit and really wasn’t bothering if I didn’t, but it sure is great to have achieved it: I got on the scale this morning and weighed in at 189.8 pounds. I got under the 190 mark! That is the first I’ve seen that on the scale since I was 18 and in the Navy. I’m 5’10” and have big thighs, so while I haven’t been ‘fat’ in many months (aside from being able to pinch a half an inch of visceral belly fat), being in the 180’s is probably ideal for my body type. A month ago I was weighing in around 197. Earlier posts reflect that I was hanging out in the 191 to 192 range for months and then, as soon as I started CrossFit (see below), I quickly tacked on about 7 pounds and stayed there. I attribute the weight gain to muscle increase but possibly also because I was eating more to compensate for the increased workload, even though I likely didn’t need to.
Then, at the start of this month, my CrossFit box started a September “Zone Challenge” – basically a large number of folks, including myself, got weighed and then calipered by the coach, and then given a body fat percentage. I was utterly dismayed to receive a 24% body fat number. While it’s better than the ~40% I was at less than 2 years ago, it’s still disappointing. I attended a seminar at the box about The Zone diet. I’d of course heard about Zone before – it’s one of the few diets that has maintained a loyal following for a long time. Based on my knowledge of nutrition in relation to weight loss, it looks like a fairly effective plan, but I had two concerns that steered me clear of it:
1. I lost and have maintained 70 pounds on a low-carb Paleo approach. No way will I change things up and wind up jeopardizing that.
2. The Zone appears to me to be a big pain in the ass. Everything gets measured. Everything.
I’m sure Zone is great, but I decided to stick with what my low-carb Paleo approach but do a Whole30. As with the last time I tried a Whole30, I failed. But, I did get to about 2 weeks before failing : ) How did I fail? Alcohol (while out of town at a work conference), and dairy. I find it impossible to avoid dairy completely. BUT…I’ve successfully avoided the blatant sugar bomb ‘treats’ that I was indulging in 2 to 3 times per week: an ice cream, or a banana-laden smoothie, etc. I cut that out for this month.
But I wasn’t losing any weight at all the first week and then, the past 2 weeks, I suddenly started dropping weight again. Why? I attribute it to one thing: I’ve purposefully de-stressed.
Cutting Back the CrossFit for Now
I’ve been *very* stressed from work the past 4 or 5 months. I can’t go into the reasons why here obviously. Regardless, things have chilled a bit. I know this sounds like whiny bullshit and goes counter to conventional wisdom, but I honestly think that 3x per week CrossFit was also not doing me good. I was physically just not able to do CrossFit 3 times per week *properly*, so I switched back to twice per week. Now, when I go those two times per week, I’m truly performing at my best and at the right intensity, whereas before I was killing myself both physically and mentally and still not giving it my all. More on that in another post, but let’s just say that a few weeks ago I was seriously considering quitting CrossFit but now I’m starting to really see and feel the benefits and have broken through the ‘mental wall’ that I had built up for myself in regards to pride/competition.
I still maintain a 3x per week membership, but I’ll only go that third time if I am feeling great and motivated. Otherwise, my goal is to keep building muscle and aerobic capacity and, eventually, start incorporating in that third WOD per week.
This past week was mostly great, with one exception – I have a nasty ass (literally) stomach bug of sorts. It started a few nights ago, and hasn’t gone away. I’m not rolling around in pain or anything – in fact, I did a WOD on Wednesday (which was a disaster, see below for more on that). And I just finished walking over 3 miles for a Friday night fun-fun time at the track (woohoo!), stopping to do 5×10 pushups and 5×10 air squats along the way. : )
I don’t know what I ate/caught but it’s just made my stomach get some pains once in a while, and cause me to have to go you know what. So, to say the least, it’s impeded my first week of 3x membership at CrossFit greatly. I’m very disappointed to report that I only went twice this week, but I have a legit excuse – last thing I needed to do was show up and shit my shorts mid-way through a WOD : )
Aside from this relatively inconvenient but not-too-bad stomach bug, I’ve felt great this week. My diet is dialed in perfectly – I finally came to the conclusion that heavy dairy, in the form of Greek yogurt nightly, was wreaking havoc on my digestive track. So I finished up what I had last week and have avoided buying any of that stuff and won’t anymore. I am looking forward to weighing myself tomorrow. I haven’t in a week but I feel much lighter than I did a week ago – but stronger. Weird but good. But most importantly perhaps – my recovery time after a WOD is now down to an hour max before I feel “back to normal” and can function and feel good. Just a few weeks ago I was sore for 3 days and lethargic after every WOD. Now I’m fine. I’m sure eventually I’ll hit one that kicks my ass, and soreness is to be expected, but feeling like shit/lethargic the day(s) after a WOD is just not something I want. Not worth it. And, fortunately, I think I’m past that – I’ve been feeling good.
So that’s the good…now for the not as good:
No More “Team” WODs For Me
I’ve done three team WODs now – first one was on July 4th and it was an ass-kicker but a lot of fun. I had the fortune of being on a team of other relatively laid-back folks who were there for a workout and nothing more. I had a lot of fun and heck, just being a part of the ‘event’ and atmosphere was very, very cool. And this video of it kicks ass:
So with that great experience behind me, I had another team WOD – an “Adventure WOD”. It wasn’t really much of an adventure, but it was kinda cool. It was a an outdoor WOD in the parking lot, teams of 4, rotating between stations of sandbag overhead squats, sandbag “ground to overhead’s”, “box” jumps (onto a concrete median thingy designed to impede cars), and running. It was pretty cool but, as usual, I was the slowest runner. One of my teammates stayed with me the entire team – partly because he wanted to encourage me, but I got the sense a lot of the reason was cus he didn’t want me slowing the rest of the team down. We wound up finishing in the middle of the pack.
After that experience, I looked forward to another team WOD that following Wednesday with a little concern. And it didn’t go so well. It was complicated (as far as WODs go), and I just didn’t understand the way it was supposed to go. I figured I’d get the gist once we began, which was a big mistake. Trying to figure out a scoring system during a WOD that was absolutely killer, starting with a 90lb Prowler, along with lots of burpees, heavy wall balls, and 90lb tire pulls, was a recipe for disaster.
So the way it was supposed to work, which I eventually figured out too late, was we would rotate stations after the Prowler person finished their Prowler push. So if you were on the burpees, you would tell the guy switching to take over the burpees how many you had and then they should remember that and add their total to it at the end of their burpee round and tell the next guy, who continue adding on, etc. etc. etc. Problem was, we had trouble communicating. And it wasn’t just me. And, quite frankly, I was breathing so heavy and fatigued from the Prowler and tire pulls, let alone the other stuff, that half the time I just forgot to keep count. I really need to bring a paper and pen to these things I guess.
At the end, when they went to tally up our final team score, my teammates were pretty pissed. They figured out, due to some simple math, that someone had screwed up the scores and yelled out the wrong numbers for both the burpees and the wall ball totals – a total number that was lower than the previous guy had achieved so they knew the lower total had to be wrong. I honestly don’t know if I was the culprit but I would be surprised if I wasn’t as I was so out of it. One of the team members was a bit overzealous about things and an argument ensued between a couple of the guys about the score. They asked me again and I basically just gave a “I really don’t know, and don’t give a shit about the score” response. I was beat and was not going to get into it, and went over to the floor and laid down for a few minutes to compose myself. They argued with each other for a few minutes and then went up to the whiteboard and made up a number. It was surprisingly competitive, even though my contributions to the burpee and wall ball numbers were so piss poor that I would be very surprised if our actual score was anywhere near what it was recorded as.
After the cool-down and stretching, I went up to each of my WOD teammates individually and apologized, saying I’m not sure if I screwed up the score but may have. They each assured me that they didn’t care about the score and it was no big deal, but I could tell the score did mean something to them. I was pretty embarrassed and, quite honestly, not too enthusiastic about the WOD.
So I’ll be avoiding the team WODs for a while. I have a hard enough time worrying about myself let alone trying to keep others’ scores, etc. Call me a puss but I just don’t want that pressure!
It would be different if I was fatter. I think people expect more out of me, because I don’t look too out of shape. But with my lack of flexibility, strength, and relatively poor cardiovascular conditioning (in relation to the demands of the WODs), it almost guarantees a poor score/time.
Please don’t interpret my whining in this post as a knock against CrossFit. It’s not meant to be. It’s just a whine that is brutally honest: I’m now two months into this and I really don’t feel like I’ve made great strides. I’m still doing piss poor, lifting lighter weights than everyone else, etc. The coaches encourage me and tell me it’s cus I’m new but then I see other newbies show up and they are lifting lots more weight and running circles around me.
So tonight, in lieu of going to do a formal WOD at the box (because I didn’t want to risk this stomach bug striking me mid-WOD), I did my own little low-intensity WOD at the track, after first doing some serious stretching via this Mobility WOD video, to open up my hips:
It did help some, but not as much as I’d hoped. I’ll keep at it though. It’s the only way I’ll improve my squat depth/comfort, as I am not improving at it by just doing the WODs.
With the stretching done, I went to the track and walked a little over 3 miles (about an hour) and for the first 5 laps, stopped at one end of the track and did 10 air squats to as deep a depth as I could, but with good form, and then at the other end of the track I would stop and do 10 pushups. I learned that the quicker I do the pushups the easier they are. So, 3+ miles walking fast, plus 50 pushups, plus 50 air squats. Not bad for a rest day.
So next week will mark the two month point of my CrossFit experience. Really, it’s not been a legit two months though, because the first couple of weeks was Intro and Fundamentals, and then during the first month of actual WODs I took quite a bit of time between workout days to recover. So keep that in mind as you read my thoughts on the experience so far.
When I started CrossFit, I weighed 191lbs. At the time I expected that my ideal body weight would probably be somewhere in the low to mid 180’s. Still some belly fat but not a “gut” by any means. My man boobs were “A cup” size. (I’m exaggerating for the purposes of humor).
Recap of the Experience
I’ve written some posts during the process, especially in the beginning, describing in excruciating detail how the Intro and Fundamentals sessions went. Refer to those posts for the gory details. In a nutshell: the Intro was a horror, the Fundamentals was really challenging and exposed my serious physical weaknesses, but was encouraging and fun.
The first proper WOD I did, which I forget now what it was, was really, really hard. Then the next WOD was an absolute breeze. What do I mean by “a breeze”? Well, it was harder than any workout you might get at a typical gym’s Pilates or Spin class or some shit like that. But it wasn’t a situation where mid-way through the WOD I was gasping for air and wondering if my heart rate was so high that I might die.
Then, there were a series of WODs that were mostly like the first one – very freakin difficult. But, like everyone says, there’s something addicting about CrossFit. So I kept going back for my twice a week sessions.
My Lessons Learned (and Suggestions for Other Out of Shape, Forty-Somethings Looking to Try CrossFit)
There is no “looking to try CrossFit”.
I think you’ll find that, after the intro baseline, you’re either all in (mentally, at least) or will parrot what a lot of “personal trainers” and non-CrossFit gym rats parrot and say stuff like, “It’s too much.” or “Kipping pullups? What a joke!”, etc.
Seriously consider your recovery time between WODs.
Twice per week was the way to go for me. I just now switched to 3 times per week and am not sure I’m totally ready, but I’m gonna give it a go as my recovery time is greatly improved now. I can actually function the day after an intense WOD now, whereas a month ago it took 2 or 3 days of lethargy and soreness before I felt good again. I was seriously worried that I couldn’t continue, it was so bad.
Don’t forget to bring a bottle (or two) of cold water.
Trust me. You’re going to need it. But I guess that’s obvious.
Introduce yourself to everyone, and make friends.
I seriously think that one of the benefits of being the slowest and weakest guy in the session is that everyone is happy to see you walk through the door – because they know they won’t be the slowest or weakest that day! : )
SCALE SCALE SCALE.
Not only the weights, movements, etc. but most importantly, your intensity. I know this goes counter to the CrossFit mantra but if you’re like me then believe me, just making it through a WOD at the wimpiest (is that a word?) of intensities is going to leave you gasping for air and sore. I know they do me.
Ignore #5 above and ATTACK the WOD.
I’ve never gone into a WOD not looking to kick its ass. I know it will kick mine. What I really meant by #5 above was to pace yourself. I didn’t pace myself the first few weeks and as a result I was dead 1/3rd of a way through each WOD. I try not to do that anymore but it’s hard when my version of “seriously intense” in terms of weight and speed is nowhere near most of the other folks in the box doing the same WOD. But it is what it is.
Pick a schedule/time and try to stick to it.
I have a very flexible work schedule. With young kids involved in all sorts of activities and a spouse that works weekends/evenings sometimes, I was in a routine for a while of just showing up to CrossFit at different times. Since it’s the same WOD no matter when you show up, I figured it didn’t matter. But after a month of that it hit me that everyone seemed to know each other and the reason for that was that most people show up to the same time slot. I also found that certain time slots had all the “in shape” people and I prefer working out with the slow/weak people like myself : ) I’ve found a time that has a good mix of slow and super fit people and will stick to that for a while. Believe me, these WODs are so tough that the camaraderie of getting through them around the same group of folks is a real team-building thing and worth it.
I made a great decision a few weeks ago and bought an iPod Nano to use during my evening walks at the local track. Love the Nike+ Fitness app. Problem is, I literally walked over 35 miles this past month!!! I could show you my Nike+ page to prove it. That was WAY too much and, looking back, I think it did more harm than good. While “active recovery” is great, walking 4 miles at a time at high speed is not a good idea for my body when I’m still recovering from the prior day’s WOD. Your mileage may vary, but for me, a rest day needs to be a rest day. Walking long distances is not rest for me…maybe in a few months it will be.
Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks.
The best tip I got was from a fellow CrossFitter who had been doing it about 2.5 years. After introducing myself and chatting a bit, mostly with me whining about how weak and slow I am, he told me he still couldn’t do an unassisted pull-up, but could deadlift 400lbs. He emphasized that everyone was good at some things and bad at others. To just keep at it. That really encouraged me a lot. But what really helped was the next point he made – to not give a shit (my interpretation, not his actual words). Or, at least, don’t beat yourself to a pulp. He then pointed out a guy who sometimes will stop, mid-WOD, and go take a shit! LOL. Then he comes out of the can and resumes his workout. He doesn’t care about his time. He doesn’t worry what everyone else will think. The fellow then looked me dead in the eye and said something to the effect of, “You don’t strike me as a guy who gives a shit what his PR on the clean and jerk is – am I right?” I replied, “I don’t care about that. I just want to be fit.” He agreed that that’s what it’s all about for older guys like us, who have weight problems, etc. He said to take it easy and just push enough to not kill yourself but to get a good workout.
Work on your Mental Toughness
This is the thing that you may not expect when starting CrossFit. I think I and every other newbie expects their strength and overall fitness level to increase. And if you’re the type that worries about your PRs on lifts, etc., then maybe that needs to be your focus. But for me, the hardest thing has been my mental toughness – pushing through a WOD even though I have nothing left to give, my heart is pounding through my chest, the constant sweat is burning my eyes (bald guys like me don’t have nature’s mop on our heads to help impede the sweat…and no, I’ll not wear a 70’s style headband). A couple of weeks ago, after doing all the prior WODs with a constant “Can I make it? This hurts! Oh fuck, I can’t do another round!” etc etc etc running through my mind during each WOD, it hit me that that was holding me back some. My mental toughness was what I really needed to focus on. And sure enough, it has helped me greatly to focus on NOT focusing on this shit during a WOD. Yesterday’s WOD was a grueling one where I had to scale almost everything and even then it was a bitch. And even though I was hurting and wanted to quit, I had learned over the past couple of months that quitting just isn’t an option – so why even entertain the thought? So I just keep saying to myself, “Just keep going and before you know it it will be over.” Over, and over, and over. Try it.
I’m sorry to report that my weight has gone up as a result of CrossFit. I’ve been holding steady at 197lbs for the past month. But I assure you it is not fat gain – I don’t measure but if I did I’m certain that my body fat percentage has gone down at least a couple of percentage points since starting CrossFit. My body is much tighter, leaner, with some actual muscle definition starting to show through. Especially in my shoulders. In fact, I snapped some pics of myself just prior to starting CrossFit, and will post a before/after in a couple of more months to show the tangible gain. I am *really* hoping that my weight will start going down again, but if it stays at 197 and I keep getting truly leaner while more muscle defines itself then I will be content.
But, as in all cases, what matters most is not how one looks but how one feels. And I feel pretty darn great the last couple of weeks. It took a while to get my body acclimated to getting the shit kicked out of it during these WODs, but I feel like I’m over that hump now. And I feel great.
In CrossFit, you’re technically not supposed to prepare for a specific workout. It’s probably even ‘cheating’ to some extent even looking at what the WOD is going to be in advance. I always look at what the WOD is going to be before I go, but I’ve been good at not cherry-picking. I promised myself I would never do that and I haven’t yet.
My Primary Weaknesses So Far
In the title above I say “Primary” because, to be honest, I’m weak at everything. I lift less weight (MUCH less), my technique sucks at all skills, I am a slower runner, etc. Now that I think about it though, I CAN do a handful of strict pullups unassisted. Apparently not everyone can when they start. And my rowing is okay for a beginner. Aside from that, I’m screwed.
This past week the two WODs I did (I’m still on a 2x per week membership) were focused on olympic lifts. One was the jerk. The other WOD focused on the front squat. In both of these WODs I found that just getting the technique down has been really challenging. The front squat came together after the first 10 reps or so, once I got my grip position sorted out. My hands/wrists were still aching, but it wasn’t too bad. The jerk never came together for me. And other skills attempted during prior weeks, such as double-unders, are a pipe dream. When I tried those I could barely string together a decent series of single-unders. And struggling with it took the wind out of me, which made it that much harder to do the stuff that’s supposed to be harder, like the handstand pushups (or stinkbugs, which is what I had to scale to) or whatever follows the double-unders in the WOD.
My body isn’t recovering quickly enough to do CrossFit 3x per week. That is my ultimate goal. Mentally I want to do it now, and I’m half-tempted to go for it, but my concern is getting injured. When you hit 40 years of age and you’ve never done any real athletics since your early teens, you can’t get delusional and think you can just jump in there with a ‘no pain, no gain’ attitude. Well, attitude is good but this shit is too damn hard on my body to just push through it more than I already am. It’s tempting, when I walk into the box and look around and everyone is so buff and lifting tons of weight. But some of these dudes are the type that will ride their mountain bikes home from a vasectomy. They’re badasses. I need to work up to that…slowly.
So my solution? I’m going to beat the system! Well, not quite. Looking back over the WODs I’ve completed so far, a few things stick out at me as clear problem areas I need to focus on:
Olympic Lifting Technique
Today, along with a bunch of other errands I need to get done, I’m going to do what I’ve been meaning to do for a while now: go to Home Depot and buy a section of thin diameter PVC pipe. Same as they have at the box. For me, I think it’s important that I start using it as a stretching tool to get my shoulders opened up more. While I need flexibility work on my arms, hips, legs, etc., and especially my wrists (they are *really* abnormally inflexible), doing shoulder separations (commonly referred to as “Pass-Thru’s”) may help.
I’m not kidding about my wrists. I took an introductory squash lesson about 10 years ago and the instructor kept telling me to cock my wrist while holding the racquet. He grabbed my hand and pushed back and when it wouldn’t go any farther he proclaimed, “You have the most inflexible wrist I’ve ever seen in 20+ years of coaching.”
Here are my hands when stretched ‘back’ as far as possible. Not even close to perpendicular to the arm:
Now you try the above with your wrists, pushing back as far as you can, and compare the results.
Ideally I think I’d benefit from yoga, but I can’t afford to do both yoga and CrossFit, and I’m not one to roll a mat out in my family room and follow along to one of those yoga OnDemand tv shows.
Olympic Lifting Technique
Another big problem, particularly with the two very complicated (for me) olympic lifts has been my total inability to just physically memorize the movement, let alone worry about lifting real weight. I really didn’t expect so much technique would be involved in this. The lifts look so simple when others do it, but I’m finding it’s not as easy as it looks. And apparently it is a learned skill. I found this video of the snatch that seems to underscore that it is a learned skill and not simply something where you just need to know how not to injure your back. There’s more to it.
Another thing I did this week was to go out and purchase a speed rope like this one:
It was cheap at my local sporting goods store ($6), and if you have an Amazon Prime account you can get them for as little as $2 on there with free shipping. My local sporting goods store had some $15 ones that looked nicer but I took a chance going cheap and it definitely was the right choice as this rope is plenty sturdy. While I certainly won’t be doing double-unders any time soon, I can practice the single-unders so that I won’t have to worry about expending all of my energy during a WOD fumbling and tripping over a jump rope.
With all that said, the absolute biggest problem is that my cardio is just not up to snuff. After yesterday’s pre-WOD warm-up (200m run, followed by burpees, followed by broad jumps and spidermans), I was sweating like crazy and out of breath while everyone else looked fine. Gotta add aerobic conditioning to the list….
Would love to hear from other CrossFitters, especially those new to the sport. Leave a comment below. Do you work on skills/technique outside of the box?
I really wanted to do my first CrossFit Group Session and WOD with the coach that guided me through the CrossFit Fundamentals course, as I figured she would be able to scale the WOD for me without hesitation and would know what I know/don’t know in terms of lifts, my form (or lack thereof), etc.
But my Fundamentals coach wasn’t doing any sessions today. So I signed up for the 4:30 session, coached by the fellow who administered the Baseline WOD to me last Monday. I knew I was in for pain. Alas, I just jest – he turned out to be a very helpful coach, and within minutes of the session starting, he knew he’d have his hands full helping me…
So I show up 15 minutes early. I walk in and there are about 10 people standing around in the ‘foyer’ (the actual workout area/’box’ is behind a glass wall/doorway and the ‘foyer’ contains some side-rooms, t-shirt/swag stand, and check-in desk. The reason everyone was hanging out in the foyer instead of warming up inside was because there was a CrossFit Kids session in progress, and apparently non-parents aren’t allowed in there until they’re done.
So I look around while waiting, and immediately notice that every freakin person in there, waiting to go in for the same session as me, was absolutely ripped. We’re talking natural ripped – not steroids/ Schwarzenneger. Both men and women. Most in their mid-20’s max. A couple older folks. All were in impeccable shape. I was nervous.
Just then, I notice an obese lady waiting too. I was thrilled, figuring I wouldn’t be the slowest and weakest in the session…until the CrossFit Kids session ends and her kid comes out and they leave.
So we go inside and the coach, an exhuberant fellow, guides us through a warm-up consisting of:
Those bend-over to touch your toes then walk-out your hands to push-up position, do the push-up, then walk your hands back, keeping your knees as straight as possible for as long as possible.
Spidermans (these are a very difficult stretch, where you pose on the ground like Spiderman)
Some arm circles
I was already pretty nervous about this whole thing. And my gut was still grumbling from the big-ass sweet potato I ate too quickly a couple hours prior. So I was already short of breath by the time the 400m run was over, and I started to sweat. The run wasn’t very long so I would have been fine had I not been so nervous or had an upset stomach.
Then, with the warm-up complete, the coach talked us through today’s WOD:
5 Rounds for Time…
5 Hand stand push-ups
10 Hang power snatch (115/75#)
20 Double unders
Truth be told, although probably not in the spirit of CrossFit, I did look on the WOD blog earlier today and knew that this WOD almost couldn’t have been a worst first one for me. I’m sure there are many harder ones, but push-ups (let alone handstand ones), then one of the more complicated olympic lifts, and then double-unders: jumping rope so that the rope goes around TWICE for each jump. I hadn’t jumped a rope much ever in my life.
The coach spent a good deal of time talking us through how to do the Hang Power Snatch correctly. I followed along and felt like I knew what I was supposed to do, but as I found out during Fundamentals, knowing what to do and doing it are two different things. He must have sensed that I was clueless and asked me if I had tried these before, which is when I told him this was my first class and I’d never done any olympic weightlifting. He then had everyone practice a bit – by this time there was at least 15 or 20 ‘athletes’ there, and space was pretty darn tight. Especially when you consider everyone’s throwing down the weights when done, jumping rope, etc. I’m surprised more people don’t get hurt – I felt like I almost hit the coach once when doing a rep of the power snatch.
During the practice reps, I stuck to the bar only. The coach came over and worked with me for a few minutes and then told me to stick with just the 45lb bar and focus on form, and if he saw it was too light for me he’d add some weight during the WOD. I knew there was no way I could handle any weight on the bar yet…
After that, the coach urged everyone to really try to do the Double Unders and not wimp out. I got the sense that a lot of folks don’t bother and just go for standard ‘single under’ jump rope.
Starting The WOD
Next thing I know, it’s “3-2-1-GO!”.
First up is the handstand push-ups. The coach had mentioned that there were 3 levels of ‘scale’ if you couldn’t do the real handstand PUs – first was to use a lumbar-looking pad thing that rests under your head. I don’t get how that scales anything – looks to me it just makes it so if you fall you won’t crack your head as it’ll just bonk onto the padding of this thing. He then said the next level of scale is to do a “Stinkbug” – basically a push-up in the pike position. Last option for scaling was to use a box to support your lower body.
He came over right away and told me to do the Stinkbug style. I did alright with them the first round of five, though they were much harder than regular pushups. I then went to the power snatch and struggled at first but eventually got the hang. The coach spent quite a bit of time with me at that point. 10 reps, plus add 4 or 5 more that he said weren’t right so I re-did, and it was on to the Double Unders. I really screwed myself with these. I should have just ignored his plea for everyone to really try the Double Unders and just do regular jump-rope. But, like a buffoon, I was attempting the Double Unders. And I’m lucky I didn’t Double Over…Eventually, I was able to do a real Double Under once every 2 or 3 tries, but only for a single jump. I’d then lose momentum and trip. And this constant struggling to do them really took a lot out of me, particularly as the rounds continued.
By the time round 1 was finished, I was toast and I knew it. I was sweating like a pig, and gasping for breath. Still, I pushed on. Once in a while the coach would come over and try to inspire me. The first couple of rounds he did. By the third round, I was in a daze. Not truly dizzy or sick or anything. Just spent. Fortunately, I had the discipline to just keep going, but with a healthy dose of leaning over and taking breaths, short pauses.
I finally get to the 3rd round. I look around and see that half of the people are already done. I remember thinking, “These fucking people are freaks of nature!” To put it in better perspective – I was the ONLY one I noticed that didn’t have the prescribed 115lb (men) or 75lb (women) on their bar.
By the end of the 3rd round, doing the jump rope and still trying double unders every 5 or 6 revolutions (a major mistake), I was so drained I wasn’t sure I could finish. But I knew there was no way I was quitting. No fucking way. I asked during the Intro session if there was a portable defibrilator on site and the coach said there was and they were trained on how to use it. I wasn’t that bad today but it crossed my mind.
The coach comes by and asks me what round I’m on. I tell him 3. He tells me 4 will be my last, as there is a 20-minute time limit. I didn’t argue.
The 4th round (for me – most everyone else was done) starts and I am doing the box-assisted handstand pushups. I’m hurting bad. I could barely get on/off the box. I stumbled through the pushups and then did the power snatches. The coach kept coming over and checking my form and this round he kept saying I had it down, but I could tell it wasn’t great. I was too weak by this time to do it right. On to the Double Unders and by the 20th single revolution, after some failed attempts at true double unders thrown in, the coach tells me to quit trying double unders and just do single. I forgot to mention that if you don’t do double unders you have to do 60 single jump rope revolutions. I got on a roll and, maybe it was knowing the pain was almost at an end, I nailed the final 20 jumps in a row.
With the WOD done, the coach had us put the equipment away and then he led us through some stretches.
With the session over, he came over and asked me if I was okay. I said yeah and he replied, “Are you dizzy?” LOL. I was so weak I couldn’t laugh. But I could tell he was concerned as I was so spent by then that I couldn’t muster any emotion in my face to let him know I was okay. He told me to hang out a bit after the WOD before getting into my car but I had to get home to take my son to baseball, so no chilling out and watching everyone else put themselves through torture for me.
I got home and then went to the baseball field with my son and was still sweating like crazy, still recuperating for about 45 minutes. I then decided to walk (there is an excellent walking/running track at this park). I figured it would mitigate soreness and I felt like moving (believe it or not) anyway. I walked for about 40 minutes and started to feel great. Humiliated at how weak I was, and how poorly I felt I did on the WOD. But then it hit me – I’m 40 years old, in the best shape of my life, and I’m CrossFitting. I’m a fucking CrossFitter. A sorry excuse for one, but one nonetheless.
The coach told me, after I assured him I was okay, that “it gets easier.” I don’t really believe him. My competitive nature will just make me push harder. At this point I could give a shit about time or points (all CrossFit workouts are timed or scored). But it will bother me if I’m not at least completing the workout with scaling. Today I only finished 4 of the prescribed 5 rounds. Not cool. I will keep pushing and hopefully within a month or two I will be at least getting through the complete workout, even if scaled heavily.
Next WOD will be Saturday. And wouldn’t you know it – I just checked tomorrow’s WOD (it is posted at 10pm precisely the evening before) and it plays to all my ‘strengths’. Oh well. Hopefully the luck will be with me for my next WOD, which will be Saturday.
Tomorrow’s WOD –
AMRAP in 20 Minutes of: (AMRAP = As Many Rounds As Possible)
10 Chest to Bar Pullups
20 Pistols (10R/10L)
30 Box Jumps (24″/20″)
Teams of TWO with ONE person working at a time
The workout can be broken up in any way. Athletes can alternate rounds or break up each individual round as they see fit. If a three person team needs to be created, the rep scheme should be 15, 30, 45 with two people working at a time.
I ‘graduated’ from CrossFit Fundamentals today, after a lengthy 1.5 hour session this morning.
Very proud of my accomplishment, particularly considering the past year’s difficulty with figuring out and dialing in the proper nutrition for these types of workouts. It is a very difficult and individualized thing to ascertain the right balance between physical activity and food intake to maintain both peak performance and bodyfat at the desired levels. I’m only just beginning but I think I’m on my way. After just a week of CrossFitting I’m already noticing more muscle definition and some loss of belly fat.
“If you are going to do high-intensity exercise, you should eat the carbohydrate that goes along with it.” – Matt Lalonde
<UPDATE – 05.28.2012 1600>
DISREGARD THIS POST UNTIL AFTER YOU READ THIS THREAD:
Notice that the one reply mentions that Mat Lalonde eventually came to the conclusion that carbs were necessary to sustain CrossFit workouts. I will look for the podcast that the thread mentions to confirm, but in the meantime, I am going to either increase my daily carb intake or do carb ‘refeeds’ a couple of times per week to ensure I don’t ‘bonk out’ doing CrossFit.
<UPDATE – 05.28.2012 1600>
I found the podcast in which Matt discusses the ramifications of going low carb while doing CrossFit. You can listen to it here:
The relevant section where Matt speaks to when he finally ‘bonked’ (my term to describe it, and based on his telling of what happened to him, an understatement) starts at 44:07. Key summary:
“If this article had been a published piece of scientific literature, I would have retraced it….it was foolish, stupid, and naive….and no one should attempt what I did…”
Was seeing results improve, but after writing that up “I completely crashed”
A workout consisting of rowing and sumo-deadlift high-pulls caused him to fall to the floor and go into and out of consciousness. He realized his brain was running out of glucose.
He composed himself and quickly went to the nearby Ben & Jerry’s and picked out 3 pints of gluten-free ice cream. He ate all three right at the counter “in a matter of minutes…and I could feel my body soaking up the sugar”
Bottom line from Matt – “Don’t do that.” “If you are going to burn carbohydrate, eat carbohydrate.” He recommends starchy stuff like yucca root, peeled potatoes for this. “If you are going to do high-intensity exercise, you should eat the carbohydrate that goes along with it.”
As for me….once I heard this you know what I did? I went to the local store and bought a pint of Ben & Jerry’s “Everything But The…” (Kitchen Sink), gave 1/3rd of it to my wife, and then ate the rest in anticipation of tomorrow morning’s CrossFit. And, so long as I am still seeing the muscle definition/toning as a result of the super-intensity CrossFit, I will continue to indulge in a super-sugar treat like this once a week if I feel it’s necessary : ) Otherwise, it’ll be a mashed large sweet potato (with butter, heavy cream, and cinnamon) per day to supplement.
So I’ve finished week one of CrossFit and, so far, am experiencing some amazing changes already. I’m very surprised to see a ‘V’ shape starting to form from my chest/arms down to my ‘still-10-extra-pounds-around-it’ of gut. The strength training from the two sessions, which admittedly weren’t really full WODs even, have been enough to stimulate some serious and noticeable changes in my body already and I’m really stoked about that. Yesterday I did 50 air squats consecutively (was easier than I thought it would be), as well as some shoulder dislocations. I’ll continue to do that through this weekend minus Monday, so my body is well rested for Tuesday’s CrossFit session. I gotta admit, if it’s not obvious already – I’m already obsessed with CrossFit and I haven’t even done a group WOD yet. I have my final Fundamentals personal training session on Tuesday, which should be a real monster of a session since my coach is fixing to fit in Fundamentals 2 and 3 into a single session. From there, she said I would be ready to join the group sessions for WODs. I don’t think I’m ready, but what the heck.
Back to the topic of this post. A very important topic that has never been answered fully. At least not that I can find. Conventional Wisdom on diet/nutrition/fitness is dead wrong on most things, so I can’t turn there for any legitimate, research-backed advice on this simple question:
Can I Do CrossFit While Continuing on a Low Carb Paleo/Primal Diet?
With the exponential increase in physical activity that something like CrossFit (or P90X, etc.) incurs, is a low carb paleo (or primal) way of eating still ideal? I know it’s ideal for the day-to-day, and I know it works for active weight loss if one restricts carb intake appropriately. And for those not looking to lose weight, I know that a Paleo/Primal diet will result in that person feeling better overall, with more energy.But what about when one decides to make the jump from a reasonably fit (for a 40-something year old) person to a hardcore athletic training program such as CrossFit?
Do I need to carb-load before or do carb refeeds or just generally increase my carb intake daily to supplement?
Or do I up the fat and protein? Or just the protein? Natural gluconeogenesis, theoretically, should be enough to replenish my glycogen stores without adding any extra glucose (i.e., sugar aka carbohydrate) back to my diet.
This article by Mat Lalonde is the best source on the subject I’ve found:
I felt a little sluggish for the first two weeks and CrossFit metcons really kicked my butt. It seemed like I had to work twice as hard only to come up a few seconds, sometimes a few minutes, short of a PR. However, my energy levels returned between the second and third week of low-car paleo eating. At this point I felt no energy slump in the afternoon (a problem I had previously) and I was having much less of a problem matching my PRs on CF metcons. Most important were the noticeable increases in strength and loss of body fat around the abdomen.
Mat goes on to say:
So where to go from here? I’m going to keep this up because I know I’ll be healthier in the long run by consuming fewer carbohydrates. Does this mean that post workout carbohydrates are bad? Absolutely not! In a situation like the CrossFit games, with multiple workouts throughout the day, PWO carbs are essential. Replenishing glycogen stores takes approximately a day on a low carb diet whereas wolfing down some mashed sweet potatoes will get the job done in a few hours. In addition, the fact that fat slows down gastric emptying probably means you don’t want to be eating a whole lot of it during competition. Easily digestible protein and carbohydrates are still the way to go in a games setting. However, I think my experiment highlights the fact that PWO carbs are a powerful tool that should be used sparingly under the right conditions. Avoiding a carb load after a workout will allow you to hold on to the insulin sensitivity you gained from exercising. This is a huge boon, especially for clients who are trying to improve their body composition.
I urge you to read the full article! It’s well done and gives the proper context.
My Conclusion (For What It’s Worth)
So what does Mat’s experience tell me? I need to stick it out for a couple of weeks eating the way I’ve been eating for the past year and a half, which has been successful for me and, most importantly, I *feel best* day to day as a result of.
But last night I went out to eat with my family with the sole purpose of doing something I haven’t done in months – eat a high-carb, junk food meal. Thinking it would ‘replenish’ the glycogen stores. It resulted in a shared appetizer of nachos piled on with cheese, peppers, chicken, guacamole, etc., one of those big ass cheeseburgers with fries, a ‘Kolsch’ beer (I think Rock Bottom Brewery’s beer generally sucks, and this one didn’t change that opinion) and then a kid-sized TCBY Greek Yogurt (garbage worse for you health-wise than straight-up ice cream). Felt like shit afterwards (physically, not mentally – I know I can absorb meals like that without issue). Very sluggish, and my heart was racing as a result of the influx of sugar from the carbs. We ate at ~7pm and my heart didn’t stop until ~10pm.
And, quite frankly, the meal wasn’t all that good. I only ate half the fries. When you eat healthy, consistently, for as long as I have now, stuff like that loses its appeal. Especially the fries. The burger was decent.
So, I’m gonna try to stick it out and hope that, after a couple of weeks, my body will adjust to the rigors of working out hard and legit while still eating healthy. I just want to avoid getting on the hamster wheel – eating bread, rice, and other poisons only to *have* to workout just to mitigate the effect. That’s not a way to live, but unfortunately it is Conventional Wisdom’s prescription – eat shitty food under the pretense of ‘Healthy Whole Grains’, etc., and then burn it off on a treadmill. How’s that working out for ya?
I’ll be sure to post often as I continue through the CrossFit experience. Jumping into it has reinvigorated my focus on sharing my story via this blog.